Daily reports from the Conference
Setting the Context:
This year's Climate Change Conference COP16 is being held in the beautiful 'Mexican Caribbean' state of Quintana Roo in the port of Morelos, south of Cancun. Our delegation is staying in a gorgeous beach house with unlimited vistas of the ocean where we are constantly accompanied by the sound of breaking waves on long sandy beaches. However, we are here to attend a conference with a busy schedule and so not too much time is spent at the house, but Amrit Vela and the morning sunrises are very special.
The Brahma Kumaris have an official observer status with an international delegation of twelve plus four local members, so we are seventeen in all. They are Sister Jayanti, head of the delegation; Luciana Ferraz, Brazil; Golo Pils from Germany/India; Sonja Ohlsson, Denmark, Julia Grindon-Welch, USA, Patricia Itergurri, Peru, Valerianne Bernard, Switzerland, Renaud Russell, France, Usha Jevan, South Africa, Pierro Musini, Italy; Carmen Barbacahno and Yolanda Moreno, Mexico and our other Mexican delegation is Vivienne von Son Guillot, Kitzia Wiess, Rocio Escorcia, and Raquel Pineda.
The main government negotiations are being held at Moon Palace, a very large hotel, just outside of Cancun and the side events and exhibitions of the COP16 are being held at the Cancun Messae, a 15 min shuttle ride from Moon Palace. The Brahma Kumaris have a stand in the exhibition area where we are featuring our main theme of Consciousness and Climate Change: The Confluence of two Living Systems and 'India One' our new 1,0 MW el. (3.5 Mw) Solar Thermal Power Plant near or Shantivan Complex, Rajathan, India. We also have a joint side event with The Global Peace Initiative of Women. There are two NGO Forums taking place and we are participating in both; one is the Climate Change Village sponsored by the Mexican federal government and the other is KlimaForum10, the Peoples Climate Summit. We are hosting workshops in both and also have an exhibit tent at KlimaForum.
As part of our preparation we had a delegates meeting to bring us all onto the same page and later while some set up exhibition stands others took part in a "Green Workshop" facilitated by Sonja Ohlsson and translated into Spanish by Valeriann for the Spanish speaking delegation. The discussion was based around the questions of what is the link between spirituality and environment. What are the benefits of being environmentally aware, and what one change would you bring in your life to make it more environmentally friendly. All who took part enjoyed this tremendously.
Monday 29th November.
After a big family breakfast the group split up into two groups: One to the Climate Change Village and the other to the KlimaForum – where we were conducting and taking part in two workshops. We stuck to the NGO forums as COP16 was only open to government delegates that morning.
KlimaForum10: The KlimaFourm is set up with tents in a beautiful cleared area of forest which is normally a polo club. The idea of the KlimaForum, is to debate true sustainable and socially just solutions to climate change. It is run by young very well intentioned people, however unlike the KlimaForum held in Copenhagen it is not well organized or publicized. And so though the idea is wonderful and the situation beautiful, there is little response from the public. Our workshops were therefore cancelled and re-scheduled for later in the week. However, both Golo and Pierro who were leading the workshops were interviewed. Golo by a young documentary film maker on Solar Energy and Pierro by a local television and web station in Puerto Morales called 'Jaguard TV. On natural farming and Yogic agriculture, this is being done in cooperation with the SD Agricultural University in Gujarat.
Climate Change Village. We arrived at a newly built "village" a huge building with large areas and platforms for concerts and performances; spaces for many exhibitors, mainly featuring business and large corporations such as Cola Cola offering coke in a Eco friendly bottles, Mitsubishi showcasing electric cars.
This was the Village's first day open and we found ourselves to be one of the first workshops taking place. The village was not ready and so there were not many people around. The American based organization "Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) had arranged a panel discussion and had invited us to take part. We, along with the moderator and founder of GPIW, Dena Merriam, (a regular COTT participant) and her team arrived to an empty hall. Through the ingenuity of some of her team they found a bigger stage in the exhibition hall and managed to convince the organizers of the Village that the panel discussion should be moved there. The panel started with few participants but as the program continued about 30 people found their way to listen to "The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change - Addressing the environmental crisis from a spiritual perspective".
luciana-smallThe panel discussion started with Luciana Ferraz from Brahma Kumaris, Brazil. She shared that the spiritual and the environment are interconnected in all living systems. The word "oikos" (from which the word ecology is derived) in Greek means house. We have five houses - first house is our mind which generates our thoughts and feelings. Than we have the body; which is the temple of the spirit, then there is the home where family interaction takes place, after that there is the earth; the stage of our human family's play and the fifth house is the universe; our bigger home where our planet is located. A profound and lasting balance of all these houses starts with the transformation of our consciousness and so a change in our attitudes. With an education based on values our habits change and with an ethic of caring towards nature, we are able to change our life style.
Mr Richard Cizik, founder of New Evangelicals USA, followed on by saying that new bold action from spiritual groups was necessary. He saw the spiritual contribution in three steps. The first step is to change our vision to see more clearly and deeply - to move away from having the human at the centre, to have the cosmos at the centre of our view. The second step which is the strategy, is to care more deeply about what we see, to care and to co-operate. The third step is the step for action - to be a healthy disturbance and to make things move.
Finally Sister Joan Chittister, Benedicte nun and renowned author brought up the aspect of creation. We didn't come to dominate nature but live with her in harmony. She also shared that saints see the same things everyone else sees, but they see them differently.
Due to a somewhat chaotic start the helpful staff from the Climate Change Village asked us if we would like to come back and repeat the same program in a couple of days. To which we agreed.
Though there were not many delegate attendees at the Village there were a large amount of press and they were very interested in what we had to say. So after the program the media gathered around everyone and held short interviews. Luciana Ferraz and others from panel got interviewed by two newspapers: Novedades-Grupo Sipse (distribution in Q.Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Guerrero States and Mexico City) and Uno mas Uno (local Cancun Newspaper), plus Radio ECOS (FM 104.90).
The day was completed by evening meditation overlooking the ocean, family dinner and catching up with emails and reports.